October 10, 2009

In the weeks ahead, Canadians will come together to honour a group of men and women who unite us as few things can: Our Veterans – the generations of brave Canadians who have always been there to serve our great country in both times of war and in times of peace. Millions of Canadians will participate in the various Veterans’ Week events because they proudly understand the great debt we owe our Veterans and their families. As your local Member of Parliament, I am also proud of our government’s own record in repaying that debt.

In less than four years in office, we have expanded and improved a number of programs to ensure our aging traditional Veterans receive the support they’ve earned and deserve. Our Veterans Independence Program (VIP) is a prime example. We’ve extended this world-class program to more widows so they can remain independent in their own homes, and we are also 1extending VIP and other important benefits to Allied Veterans who fought side-by-side with Canadians during the Second World War and Korean War. We have also addressed longstanding issues such as the testing of Agent Orange at CFB Gagetown in the 1960s, by delivering more than 2,500 ex gratia payments, and approved a compensation package for our Atomic Veterans. Equally important, we have delivered on our promises to create a Veterans Bill of Rights and to appoint Canada’s first Veterans Ombudsman.

At the same time, our Government has taken unprecedented action in meeting the needs of our younger Veterans.  Within two months of taking office, we implemented the New Veterans Charter, which has already helped more than 16,300 modern-day Veterans and their families with comprehensive financial assistance, rehabilitation, job placement and health benefits.

As well, we have 1expanded our mental health services to help Veterans and their families cope with the trauma that can come with serving on dangerous and difficult missions. We have doubled the number of operational stress injury clinics across the country from five to ten, and we have hired more peer counsellors for military families through our internationally-renowned OSISS (Operational Stress Injury Social Support) program. Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence are also working closely together to build a national network of 19 Integrated Personnel Support Centres for the 1care of ill and injured service men and women.

Finally, our Government is making sure future generations remember the achievements and sacrifices of those who serve. Over the past four years, our Government has provided funding support to hundreds of community groups to restore cenotaphs and monuments and to hold commemorative events to honour our Veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

To achieve all of this, our government has significantly increased federal funding for our Veterans, their families, and the issues important to them.  In fact, over our first four budgets we have allocated a combined $1.9 billion more for Veterans compared to the Liberals’ last budget.

All Canadians can be proud of these accomplishments. As Veterans’ Week approaches, I encourage all Canadians to take the time to remember our nation’s truest heroes—past and present.

Lest we forget.

Earl Dreeshen, MP
Red Deer